The three-building private athletic complex that had been preliminarily named “Superdome South,” planned for the former Foodtown site on Route 70, will be the subject of an unexpected hearing before the township’s planning board this week where its owners will pitch a plan to radically change the design of the structure.
Two weeks ago, officials said groundbreaking on the the domed complex was expected by the end of the summer, but just two days later, correspondence between the owners of the property and township officials would indicate that major changes were required. Those details will be presented to the board this week, but documents reviewed by Shorebeat indicate the three buildings that were to make up the complex will be replaced by a single, traditional building that will house a number of uses. Architectural renderings do not show the “dome” bubble as previously proposed, and the board’s Architectural Review Committee has endorsed the new plan as being more aesthetically pleasing than the dome.
A July 26 letter to planning board members from the township planner’s office said the investment group behind the project, formally known as LCP Sports II Urban Renewal, “is applying to amend, for the second time, the previously approved sports center to change the layout of the buildings on-site.”
According to the letter, the change does not modify the outward bounds of the footprint of the complex, but proposes to combine three structures – the dome, a basketball and daycare center, and a front office building – into a single building.
“This revision is the result of the applicant not being able to comply with the fire code official’s requirement to sprinkler or fire-suppress the sports [dome] building,” Township Planner Tara Paxton wrote. “The applicants needed to return to the drawing table to find a solution to designing the structure to be fire code compliant and have proposed this revision.”
The basketball courts and daycare center, the letter said, will now be located on the eastern side of the building and will be combined with the main sports center and offices. The newly-proposed large, single building will be situated where the dome had been proposed – in the rear of the former supermarket site with cross-access to the Aldi supermarket in the front, which will eventually be joined by at least one restaurant.
The new plan does not require additional variance relief from the board. To the contrary, a “pedestrian realm variance” for parking that was already granted by the board will no longer be required since two feet of additional buffer space will be added.
The applicants were advised, in the same document, to be prepared to discuss the changes in detail. Due to the gravity of the modifications proposed, the board’s Architectural Review Committee reviewed the updated plans, ultimately endorsing them.
“The plans were attractive and an improvement over the previously-approved ‘sports bubble,’ office and basketball buildings,” the letter said. “Landscape foundation plantings are located along the frontage of the site that soften the building aesthetic, and mechanicals have been moved from the ground to the top of the roof with screening.”
Renderings of the previously-approved domed structure appear below.
Since its initial approval as part of a redevelopment plan for the site, owned by the township and left dormant for over a decade after Foodtown departed, the “sports dome” has hit some bumps along the way. After suffering losses during the coronavirus pandemic-era rent moratorium, the original investors behind the complex left, only to be replaced by a new group of backers who demanded a tax exemption for the property, which was granted by the township council. In May, the planning board approved smaller changes to the site which included an enlargement of the playing fields under the dome and the addition of the day care center as a major use of the adjacent building.
The planning board is scheduled to hear the applicants’ case for the new building this Wednesday, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. at the township municipal complex.